Dangerous neighborhoods are safer than commuting

by Philip Brewer on 14 July 2007 34 comments

Cars in apartment parking lot

Why do so few people live within walking--or at least bicycling--distance from where they work?

I've asked a lot of people this question and gotten a lot of different answers. Some people want big houses, others big lawns. A lot of people think--for reasons that they can't really articulate--that suburbs are the right place to raise kids. But one reason that you hear a lot is that people want to live somewhere safe--a low-crime area.

The fact is, that's not a good reason to live a long way away from where you work, because a long commute is more dangerous than living in a dangerous neighborhood.

It's one of those odd quirks of the way people's brains work that people don't recognize this immediately. People drive all the time, so driving seems safe. Violent crime, on the other hand, is rare, making it seem like a bigger danger than it is. A quick check of the statistics, though, tells the story.

The most dangerous neighborhood I could find in a quick search on the internet was census tract 440100 in south-central Chicago. According to the Chicago police department, there have been 225 violent crimes, including 5 murders, this year in this neighborhood, which has a population of 9324.

So, that's 5 murders per 9324 people per 365 days which comes to 0.00000147 murders per person per day.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there are 100 injuries, including 1.5 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles, which works out to 0.000000015 traffic fatalities per mile driven.

That's all the information we need to find the commute that's as dangerous as living in the most dangerous neighborhood in Chicago: 49 miles (a 98 mile round trip).

Granted that's a long commute. On the other hand, that assumes that there's a zero percent chance of being murdered in whatever neighborhood you do live in, which is at least a little optimistic.

Of course, there are other scary crimes that can happen in dangerous neighborhoods, but if you compare all violent crimes to all traffic injuries, the long commutes come out even worse. If your commute is 33 miles each way, you can expect to be injured in a traffic accident about as often as you'd be a victim of a violent crime living in the most dangerous neighborhood in Chicago.

None of this is to suggest that you ought to live in a dangerous neighborhood. Often just moving a few blocks can make a big difference. Move a few blocks west to census tract 440200 (where there's been 4 murders in the past year and 167 violent crimes) and the equivalently dangerous commute drops to 24 miles each way. If you're driving further than that because you want to live in a safe neighborhood, either there's blood running in the streets or you haven't done the math.

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Guest's picture
Lee

While I don't disagree with your math, I think that you are comparing apples and oranges here. I would much rather get rear-ended than mugged, or worse. I have a wife and young child, I would rather they get side-swiped than attacked, or worse. A minor traffic accident doesn't typically scar a person for life. Often times these commutes in large cities are long...slow commutes so we can typically rule out high-speed incidents, so death or permanent damage isn't likely.

When living in Chicagoland (and I will be moving back very soon), I chose to drive over an hour to work so that my wife would feel safe and comfortable taking our child for a walk.

I will politely add that the contrasting nature of the dangers means your research and math was a waste of time. I think any rational person would rather be the victim of a traffic accident over a violent crime any day.

Guest's picture
Jon

In line with Lee's comment, you also have to consider who exactly is being put at risk. Assuming your math is right (and I have no reason to doubt it), it would be safer for Mr. Jones to live in the 440100 tract than it would be for him to commute 50 miles from the suburbs. Statistically-speaking, I'll give you that.

However, if you assume that Mr. Jones has a wife and kid, you also have to figure out their respective risk factors to make it work out. While the analysis you presented works if, for whatever reason, Mrs. Jones and Baby Jones join Mr. Jones on his commute every day, that is probably not the case, and so putting them in a dangerous neighborhood creates a wholly unnecessary level of risk.

Guest's picture
flaring

I'd rather die in a car accident than be murdered. And I'd rather suffer a hospital stay than be raped. And when I get home from my commute? I'm pretty sure my home hasn't been broken into.

Philip Brewer's picture

I was only comparing deaths to deaths and injuries to violent crimes. If you live in a low-crime area, your stuff is probably safer, and my analysis didn't take that into account.

But I stand by my analysis. It's true that being a victim of a violent crime seems terrifying in a way that being in a car accident doesn't, but that's exactly my point. It doesn't mean you can trivialize the car accidents. The statistics only include the injury-producing accidents, so the minor fender-benders and parking-lot collisions are already left out of the data.

People can be scarred for life by a car accident, too--they can lose limbs, be paralyzed, suffer brain damage.

As far as how the analysis applies to other members of the family, it really comes down to how far they end up traveling by car each day. If shopping, school, and errands can all be done close to home, then the danger of the neighborhood starts to dominate. But a lot of the safe neighborhoods are a long way from other necessities of life besides the job. When your spouse and children have to drive a lot, they face the same traffic risks as you.

Will Chen's picture

I think the readers made some excellent points. Personal violence just scares people in a "gut" level kind of way. While I'm sure part of that disparity is natural, we also have to consider the role of the media.

Look at what dominates the news. Every couple of months we have a media frenzy over some poor attractive woman who got abducted, raped, or murdered. These incidents, while tragic, often got a lot more coverage than other events that are likely to kill a LOT more people.

And then there is this:

Homicide coverage on network news increased 473% from 1990 to 1998, while homicides decreased 32.9% during that time, the report said. While homicides committed by youth declined by 68% from 1993 to 1999, 62% of the public reported they believed youth crime was on the rise.

So maybe our fear of personal violence isn't as "natural" as we think it is.

Guest's picture
frank

While the author of this article may be correct statistically, the quality of life in the high crime areas are terrible. Walking to a nice restaurant on a nice summer evening is impossible because their are no nice restaurants. Movies? No good. Local banks? maybe not. In my experience, finding a local doctor or dentist is difficult. Sending your child to a local school; forget it! In short life in a high crime area SUCKS!

Guest's picture
Guest

When you are poor and drugs are flowing and illegal activity and whatever you are not aware of, buona fortunata a bon voyage- I hear gun fire out here 2 days in a row and arguments and pitbulls barking loudly, no one does anything, I hate the Bronx and some of these people are worse than the animals they own. I feel this is the worst place to live with my wife, I am trapped with no car and no hope of a better life what a terrible place this is.Taxi drivers shot dead in the past couple months, one teenage girl abducted with her poster put up on the way to the train last week, I see kids beat up and down people standing around til one kid runs away with both eyes swollen shut. The police do not come in time to help the kids. I travel each day on the subway with criminals peddling pirated movies and watch mothers hit their kids, I see alot of troubling behavior, a week ago on 174th st a 17 year old was shot dead, 2 wks earlier I was buying groceries in harlem and 2 kids got killed. i am really troubled and most people here do not even care, if they do they do not respond in a normal way, i feel penalized for being unable to earn the 147k to get me into a decent neighborhood. Survival and exsistance are out of my control it is disturbing living in New York.How does my education help me, I went to college and the only jobs they have do not pay my mta fare for the week. What can be done if your ethics tell you to leave but not to be homeless and hasty. what a mistake,i am miserable.The building owners here is are crooks they serve the purpose of keeping us down even farther with all the illegal practices they allow in their buildings, this place is not safe or sane. Don't believe me? Ask the mayor is he would want to live here.

Guest's picture
guinness416

While this is great and all, most of us probably don't work in high crime areas. Certainly the business cores I've worked (and lived!) in in Dublin, NYC and Toronto are extremely safe. I'm sympathetic to the idea that getting rid of the car is a positive (for financial, stress and time reasons) and walk the talk, but these "city vs suburbs" posts never end well because people feel you're questioning their life choices and get their backs up right from the start. It's an argument nobody can win.

Guest's picture
Lee

@Philip

I fully understand what your analysis was comparing, my concern is what you excluded. You excluded far too many variables for this article to be credible...for your own sake you should yank the article.

A couple examples of what you forgot...
Since you didn't note it specifically, and I don't have the time to verify your statistics, I'll assume that your traffic stats were for the entire country. Your crime stats for 440100 are looking at only 9324 people. I don't want to make any grand assumptions...but here I'll assume that the Chicago area mentioned is most likely ethnically/racially homogeneous and probably poverty stricken.

Another big factor you missed is that not everyone drives alike. I pride myself on being a good driver. With no accidents, I feel that the probability of myself getting into an accident is far less than say Joe down the street who drives like a maniac.

Personal story:
A number of years ago I went with a group of people on a missions trip to inner city Chicago...long story short, I wouldn't want to live there no matter how close to work I was. Fact of the matter is that the gangsters that flooded the streets wanted what they thought I had...even though I brought nothing with me but the clothes on my back...and a toothbrush.

I wish I had the time and resources to truly analyze this, but my guess is that commuting is still far safer when all the facts are presented and all the variables are taken into account.

I have tried to remain respectful, but for the record, I am disgusted at the irresponsibility you have shown in this article. Lord willing, no one will heed your advice.

Guest's picture

I don't really take this as a recommendation to live in the a very high crime area. In fact, Philip says "None of this is to suggest that you ought to live in a dangerous neighborhood."

The whole point is to think about the decisions we make. There must be balance between commute time and crime rate, and I think the author did a good job of pointing out a potential flaw in our thinking.

Guest's picture
Guest

i'm not even going to pretend that i understand the stats in this article. i'm not even sure i care to. i find statistics obnoxious and these particular statistics distract from the main gist of the article because they provide people a silly minor detail to argue over.

often these so called "dangerous" areas aren't so dangerous that developers can't bulldoze and throw up ridiculously expensive condos or warehouse lofts. i live in a city that has a lot of row housing and old warehouses, and many developers and amateur house flippers/ real estate investors, are doing that very thing. the value of the surrounding property shoots up, and hip trendy restaurants and many other amenities clamor for space, until it's time to move on to the next trendy area. i'm sure it's nothing that isn't happening elsewhere in the country. most of these areas are areas people wouldn't have dreamed of walking around in 10 years ago. in fact, someone who grew up with me in the suburbs who would often make ignorant references towards "the ghetto" now lives in such an area and has discovered that the people there(the original neighbors, not just the hipsters)are just hard working people trying to live life.

my point is be ahead of the curve. in addition to the immediate benefits such as living closer to work, it may pay off in the long run when you're ready to sell your house and it's in the neighborhood that has become the hippest in town.

Guest's picture
Bloggrrl

It's a drag when your kid comes home from school and lets you know that the neighbors offered him some weed on the way into the apartments. And while the guy upstairs who jumped out of his window to evade the police was entertaining, the violence necessitating the call to the police was irksome, to say the least. I'd rather put myself at risk in traffic than subject my kiddos to this nonsense. Still, interesting analysis.

Lynn Truong's picture

the commenters are comparing living in an extremely dangerous neighborhood to living in the perfect one, and saying you'd rather live in the perfect one than the very dangerous one even if the risk of getting into a minor accident going to work is higher.

i believe the writer is trying to say that our "perceived" risk of a violent crime is simply much higher than our perceived risk of a major traffic accident. it's like people who are terrified of flying because they are afraid of crashing, but the risk of crashing in an airplane is so much lower than getting killed in a car accident. but those same people get into a car with no qualms, but refuse to fly.

he said there are "1.5 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles" whereas in the most dangerous neighborhood, the rate of violent crimes is 225 out of a population of 9324. he's not comparing getting whiplash from a minor collision to a violent crime. he's comparing DEATH to violent crime.

there is no advocation of living in the most dangerous neighborhood to save on commute. he's just pointing out that because our perceived risk of violent crime is so much higher than the real risk of DYING in a car accident, we often end up putting ourselves at a higher risk of a major traffic accident because we think we're avoiding the risk of a violent crime.

guinness416 said it well that people are riled up because they feel personally attacked for the choices they made for their families.

i'm really happy to see that for the most part everyone is calm and reasonable still. thank you for that.

Philip Brewer's picture

I'd be sad if what everyone takes from this post is "That guy thinks we should live in dangerous neighborhoods."

I'd be pleased, though, if a few people come away thinking, "When I make one of the most important decisions of my life, it might be worth doing some serious thinking--maybe even some research and analysis--rather than just going with gut feel."

I went with the extreme case of a really dangerous neighborhood, because I thought it provided an upper bound. The interesting cases are where the neighborhood may be a little iffy, but also has plenty of positives. The same kind of analysis works in those cases. I think it's worth the effort.

Guest's picture
Guest

Short commutes are safer; that is fairly intuitive. However, I don't think it is fair to gloss over many of the other problems with inner city living. That daily hassles of more people, noise, fear of crime, et cetera can be detrimental to health in a far more profound manner than any one stressor in the long run.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is a great idea to encourage middle-class families to return to the city. One middle or upper class family is a poor community greatly can greatly impact the health of the entire community.

Guest's picture
dave p.

the comments about not wanting your child to be offered drugs when living in a lower-income/higher crime area are unfounded. your child(ren) will be exposed to all manner of drugs, over and over growing up irreguardless of where you live. you cant control that, you can only try to give your kids the kojones to resist the temptation to use them.

as far as safty goes, taking your personal safty and that of your family serious is obviosuly an important thing to do, living in a low crime area may technicly reduce your statistical chances of being victimized but it doesnt rule them out. for anyone really concerned with this issue I'd reccomend takign a closer look at what you can do as far as self defense, does your state/municipality even allow you to do so? personally I'd rather live in the dankest most crime ridden city that doesnt punish me for defending myself or my family then the nicest picket fence suburb that does.
dave p.

Guest's picture
Notorious CLO

Is to find the 'sweet spot' of where your commute is not long but the neighborhood is not bad.

Guest's picture
plonkee

...that the dangerousness of driving is underrated.

I also get to feel good because I've chosen to live in an 'iffy' area that has a very short commute rather than live further out and commute further. And if I'm completely honest, I'd rather be the victim of violent crime than die in a car crash.

Guest's picture
Shannon

I lived in poor neighborhoods for years - getting cat-called by men while I walked to laundromats, being stared down while walking past convenience stores, pawn shops, liquor stores, dollar stores on the way to the grocery store. Being woken up at 3am by violent argument outside my door in the parking lot including threats of stabbing. Rental apartments where cockroaches run over your hand while you sleep.

We're quite happy now with our 20 min. commute from a treed, nice neighborhood where kids ride bicycles, thank you very much. Especially now that we have a child.

Guest's picture
David

I partially agree. Statistically, you're correct. Just like it's safer to fly than drive. However, there are so many other factors to consider in your analysis that play into the big picture (and the little picture). For violent crimes, is this primarily gang-related? Are the murders random? Really, what are your chances of being randomly murdered in the neighborhood? Probably zero. However, as a "nicer resident", what are your chances of break-ins, car thefts, etc.? Likely greater than average.

For the commute, how safe of a driver are you? I'm willing to bet most accidents can be traced to not paying attention, and while you can't factor in the crappy drivers around you, eliminating yourself as a potential driving threat probably decreases the percentage greatly.

Personally, I live far enough from work to where I have to drive, but in a neighborhood that, while not suburbian, is also not too entrenched in crime to where I feel really unsafe. My apartment faces a road that police use often, at no more cost than the ones in dark, shady locations. If I had children, you bet I would be deep in the suburbs. Just the risk of violent crime is enough to sway me to a longer commute.

So, I think you're right in some ways, but you also have to factor in a lot of other things to make a decent decision about it (as in, how much are you willing to pay extra per month, both monetarily and emotionally, for personal feelings of security).

Guest's picture
Chris

This is a great analysis, but it is true that there are a lot of other factors that would need to be factored in (amenities in the area, other crimes such as robbery, etc.), as some commenters have pointed out. It's amazing how few people are able to tell the difference between REAL and PERCEIVED risk. I don't think most Americans realize just how dangerous driving is, probably because it's an activity we engage in so often.

A great example of how this lack of understanding and the clouding of the mind by emotions occurs is the reaction to the events on 9/11. How many people died on 9/11? About 3000 or so? Well, over 3500 *innocent people* die EVERY YEAR due to drunk drivers. Yet most people, especially our lawmakers, thought that the appropriate response was to spend billions of dollars to fight wars, establish a Department of Homeland Security, erode our rights as citizens via the PATRIOT Act, and so on. If these people are so affected by the loss of 3000 strangers' lives, why aren't they rallying for things to be done to catch these drunk drivers? How about forming a Department of DUI? How about requiring breathalyzers in every vehicle? How about stationing our troops outside of bars to catch those "terrorist" drunk drivers before they kill more Americans. Why aren't we spying on our citizens by monitoring liquor-store video to see who's engaging in suspicious alcohol purchasing activities? Where's the war on drunk driving?

Or is a foreigner killing an American somehow worse than an American killing an American? It's sad that some deaths are deemed "worse" than others. Further evidence of this bias can be found when the media makes a big issue out of some pretty, young, blond girl goes missing in Aruba, while many other people go missing each year without getting such an outcry and outlay of resources.

If protecting American's lives and quality of lives is supposed to be such a priority, how about spending those billions of dollars on issues that are REALLY a threat, like fighting heart disease, or cancer, or diabetes?

Very sad.

Guest's picture
Ted V

Yeah, but how much more dangerous is it to drive in S. Chicago vs. the suburbs?

Guest's picture
Billy Bathgates

and that his point is to stimulate discussion, so there's no need for anyone to get offended. Nobody really brought up how horribly bad suburban sprawl and commuting to work in pretentious, larger-than-necessary vehicles is for all of us?

Also, why don't more employers allow at least part-time telecommuting?

Admittedly it's a very complicated problem, which has yet to be solved effectively.

-Billy Bathgates Protection Services Inc.

Guest's picture
Guest

As one poster said, you have to look closely at the neighborhood. I think that the "bad" parts are usually not as bad as their reps. Often it is a racial issue and a bizarre idea that a black person must dress twice as nice as a white person to be considered half as good. I , too, live in a "bad" neighborhood but find that most of the people who live here are just working slobs like the rest of us. No, I wouldn't want to live in the worst neighborhood in Chicago, but there are many, many places between that and the toniest neighborhoods. There may be a "sweet spot".
Oh, and who is more likely to kill a woman in any neighborhood? A husband or boyfriend. That danger is mostly in your home, regardless of where you are...
Sharon

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm going to try to keep this short (but not sweet) because it is clear that the author has never worked with children or schools in these areas.

I grew up with my grandparents in a beautiful old home in a neighborhood that had gone "down" after the Watts riots in Los Angeles. It was a perfectly safe neighborhood when my mother grew up there, but by the time I was a girl in middle school there were racially provoked fights on and off campus before, during and after school hours that were no respecters of "how nice a person you were". If you happened to be in the wrong place on your walk home, you would be hurt. (One startled mother experienced the reverse of "Guess who's Coming for Dinner" when her children insisted I stay at their home because they knew a particurly bad fight was planned on my usual route home from school. I overheard her say to her husband "I never thought I'd live to see the day a white child would be sitting in MY kitchen!" My friends were a "rainbow coalition" but we all new the hazards of racial tension around us. Knife fights regularly broke out between boys and razor blades were the choice of girls. The police were on our campus weekly. Sexual harrassment, verbal and bodily were everyday occurences. No friends could protect anybody from that and rapes often went unreported because of the social stigma and the fear of reprisal from the boy's family and friends. Fast forward to today and it still hasn't changed except there are now more guns.

How do I know? Because I am a music teacher that chooses to go back there and work with "high risk" kids as well as my regular students in a "safe" part of Orange County. Yes, I know that there are some drugs used in the "safe" school district, but the kids there aren't taking them to get the adrenaline rush they need to pull out their gun to rob someone. These kids aren't worrying about being caught in the routine cross fire of a drug deal gone bad.

In my high risk school district EVERYONE knows at least one innocent child who was killed in cross fire. Everyone knows girls who have been raped. Most parents are afraid to have their kids go outside for fear of being bullied, having there nice jackets stolen. I could go on and on.

Oh yes, the affluent children go to a public school which is on par with the private school my grandparents finally had to pay to send me to for me to get a decent education. The school district where we lived was so bad that eventually it was the first that the state of California had to take over.

I go back and teach "high risk" kids daily because music is one of the few things that lifts them from this misery. They don't have the money to afford private lessons and music has been dropped in their public school. It's still not far from my home but I would not walk, cycle or take a bus because my students and I know it is still too dangerous. I do all of the above to my schools in nearby Orange County. In the short distance I drive in the unsafe neighborhood I have been a victim of "hit and run" twice and uninsured driver is the norm.

These neighborhoods are not that far apart. The prices of homes are worlds apart. Which neighborhood would I choose to live with children? You guess.

Philip Brewer's picture

You said, "In my high risk school district EVERYONE knows at least one innocent child who was killed in cross fire."

In my school district everyone knows someone who has been killed or seriously injured in a car accident.

For many people, the deaths and injuries from car accidents seem somehow less tragic--or, at any rate, less scary--than those from violent crime. Speaking as someone who has been a victim of both (and known victims of both), to me they're just the same.

Guest's picture
Guest

Your math does not involve common sense. Someone with a good status, or nice things becomes a target in an area without targets making it impossible to get from the burglar barred front door to the car without wheels on it in the driveway when you have to go grocery shopping or to work. Work? What's that? in that neighborhood.

Guest's picture
Guest

The stats are all very well, but one key piece of data is missing viz. how long is each person spending on the activities described ? My borough in London (UK) has the 2nd lowest crime rate in the entire city and my wife and pre-school child spend pretty much 24 hours a day within 2 miles of our home. It seems to me therefore that their chances of falling prey to violent crime here are virtually nil (indeed as anecdotal evidence, could I point out that last summer, a kid's bike was left propped on our front fence... for five weeks !!!). I spend about 2 1/2 hours a day driving back and forth to work in the city's financial district, so I'm certainly at risk from a traffic accident, but this commute still represents less than 9% of my total week... There is a probably a bigger chance that some nut with a Koran will blow me into a million pieces while I'm sitting at my desk....

Guest's picture
Lisa Simone

the numbers may say that its safer but its not.. i used to live in
the hood and i've lived in quite a few ghettos and then i moved to a really bad ghetto on the outskirts of city i will not name, it was extemely scary, having two young kids(girls) and riding the bus and walking down roads without street lights, in one neigborhood i lived down the street from a half way house that housed sex offenders and one night we were almost grabbed. after that i had to cab the two blocks to and from the bus stop. it was way to dangerous to cross that small area day or night...then we moved into a not really better place. it was all i could afford, i had no relatives to help me, i was working 16 hours a day 6 days a week and just barely making it for me and my girls.my porch light was constantly getting busted, my slum landlord refused to clean up all his 20 rental properties that became overrun with rats and termites( i lived in one of these equisite properties for 3 years) i'd have panic attacks because of frequent break ins. i had no family and welfare couldnt help me there was a huge waiting list for section 8 and the temporary shelters were no better than where i was living, and i was doing the best i could and had no choice..this was all i could afford...so i was forced to live in this ghetto with the rats termites and the break ins. over a three year span i spent a small fortune hiring terminex and buyin glue traps to no avail..i had to nail three 2 by fours into my slider door frame to keep the scum from breaking my patio door open. i had to nail ply wood in front of all the bedroom windows to keep my kids safe while they slept at night.
towards the end of it i was sleeping by the front door in a recliner with a full length mirror aimed at the door( so i could see if it opened) where i also had a full view of the bedrooms and the kitchen. while i snuggled up to a crow bar .while my oldest(who was 5 or 6 at the time) slept with a small hammer (just in case some sicko busted into the window through the ply wood and tried to assult her and her sister) i was so stressed out i had panic attacks that felt like heartattacks, going to the E.R only to find out its panic. i still have panic attacks and anxiety disorder to this day and have to go to therapy to work thru the trauma of it, both my kids had to go to therapy once we left this lovely place.and trust me i didnt live there by choice, i lived there out of neccessity. i called the cops several times and they'd patrol for a few weeks and stop, i had one cop that came to my house tell me to move or buy a gun. i was to terrified to buy a gun cause i had two small kids..so i slept with a crow bar!if you call that sleeping! my kids couldnt play outside, it wasnt safe for them to go in the back yard or walk to a friends house (even with me walking with them) then a pedophile moved across the street and the break ins increased (was this coinincdence?)my neighborhood was so bad that my regurlar cab drivers (two brothers from iraq) would sweep the house for me, checking every room, closet and window before they would let us out of the car! and now every place i live even thou i am out of the ghetto and living in a beautiful quiet place, i never feel safe. i am paranoid,keeping removeable wooden dowels in the inside of the windows with a security system with glass break because after going thru the horrible experience of not feeling safe now i never do, i get up several times a night just to check on my kids and look out the windows even thou now i live in middle class surburbia!
no offense
and i know you meant well.
but i would rather live in surburbia or some little country town that is somewhat safe then live in the hood or the ghetto.
at least now my kids can play in the back yard , we dont have to walk by drug dealers, sex offendors commuting from a local halfway house or deal with drug addicts and lushes begging for change.
the parks i take my children to now aren't littered with 40 ounce beer bottles and needles and used condoms and the air actually smells like air. they are no more nightly smells of dope wafting through the kitchen window from a neighbors house, there are no more bi weekly break ins, there are no more occasional shootings..there is no more obscene graffity drawn on fences that my kids have to look at on their way to day care or school.there are no more people trying to hustle me as i walk thru a parking lot or mow my grass! and thou i know that the only real safety in the world is in the palm of gods hand...i will say that its much better and safer to get as close to that as you can! you cant put a price or a statistic on how screwed up i am and how tramatized my kids are because of the experiences we have had to go thru.i would deal with commuting and take my chances then ever ever go thru that again.
my ex boy friend who has been to an inmate in several prisons (both state and federal) before he cleaned up his act told me that some of the cell blocks he lived in were safer than my neighborhood at times.
i would rather commute 5 hours to work, live on a island compareable to alcatraz with little more than a place to buy supplies get medicine and mail then ever ever live in a hood or ghetto like i have in the past, i would rather work three jobs so my kids can go out and play and see the sun then live in a place where my kids cant go outside even on their porch or in their pack yard or patio...i would rather work all holidays and commute two hours to anywhere then ever feel so unsafe that i am compelled to put furniture or ply wood infront of the windows.
and yes even thou i am sure it is statistaclly less dangerous than commuting and even less lethal..think about all the rapes,breakins,murders and assults that dont even get reported. and i'm sure if your added those up the commuting with be the safer option.
now i in no way want to offend the author of this article or anyone reading this or the website and i hope i dont get banned for writing my oppinion but i had to say it regardless of the penalty to represent a real voice of experience in the real world who has been there done that.so let me just appoligize now for offending anyone, but i do not appolgize for stating the truth

and before anyone says it (as several have to my face) no there was absoloutly no other choice! this was all i had to work with,all i could provide..i was a poor single mom who made two much to get assistance but not enough to provide a safe place for her kids! I got no childsupport from their dead beat father and i asked for no handouts! i worked often 3 jobs at a time just for us to survive and did whatever i had to do to feed and clothe them..My only other option was to give up and give up my kids up! and i wasnt going to do that...i struggled and made it through and now we're in a much better place! but my story isnt unique, it is only a taste of what so many other moms or dads who are single parents and poor in america could tell you. Most people just dont know it so well because you only hear it on the news..you are not directly touched by its misery that comes along with raising two kids or more in a ghetto or the hood working multiple minimum wage jobs in america without assistance .
i'm sorry telecommuting is safer and in my heart and soul would be the choice i would gladly take anytime above ever ever living in a dangerious neighborhood again.
thats my oppinion and my story...hopefully my oppinion will be respected and not get me in hot water!

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lisa simone

I know the author didnt intend to hurt anyones feelings and i know he just wanted to make us think and that is good,I dont like the comparison he used and i know he certainly didnt intend to get the responses he did. he just wanted to make us think!

I just dont want the struggles of people in the hood or the "ghetto" to be downplayed by statistics. and i know that he wasnt intending on that(after sitting down and fuming for awhile i came to that realization)and i am sure he knows now that this is a sore spot with alot of people.

I encourage everyone to entitle him to his oppinion and not judge him based on one article.
and i hope everyone will walk away from this both being careful how they drive and make decisions. as well as not downplaying the seriousness of the situation in this country as we speak in bad neighborhoods that desperately need help.

But as a last thought.
in my life i have learned statistics arent always accurate. and unfortunately there are worse things than death.some things can scar you for life and change you in a way you dont want to be changed. because my story is only one of many i have lived through and i have met so many good poeple who have had worse experiences than mine that make my horror stories sound like christmas carrols.
so in retrospect we should all be very greatful for what happiness we do have and we should never ever downplay the struggles of someone else because it can always be worse ...and thank god if it isnt.

Guest's picture
Lisa

Another consideration in this debate is the quality of life and size of home. I have decided that I would rather live in a small home in a marginal neighbourhood (although certainly not one where I am in fear) than have a larger home in a "safer" suburb with an hour commute each way. Living is "cozy", but because I can get to work in 10 minutes by transit, or 25 walking, I have that much more time to spend with my two young children and husband. And that is what my kids will remmeber, not their small, shared bedroom. I have colleagues who are gone 11 hours a day because of their commute, and so see their kids for an hour each day, when everyone is already tired.
Just another factor to think of.

Guest's picture
Mati

Gosh - the comparison he made was between a long commute and the VERY WORST MOST DANGEROUS city neighborhood in the country.

I live in what most suburbanites in my midwestern city would call the ghetto. In twelve years we have had one lawnmower stolen from our back yard after six months unlocked. A lot of the neighborhood is quite pretty, lot of owner-occupants, some beautiful housing stock.

Our commute downtown is... wait for it... two minutes. Five when traffic's bad. And our four-bedroom house cost less than half as much as a crappy suburban box.

As for the VERY WORST neighborhoods... they're as bad as they are because so many choose to live in the suburbs. All these wasted, blighted places were once solid working-class neighborhoods when our regional population was exactly the same, but not as spread out. And if the people who were moving to the outer ring - to farmland - and complaining about the stink of manure would instead colonize abandoned land near downtown and complain about something else, those neighborhoods would be friendly and safe again.

Our city has a major hospital center ringed with utter devastation, in turn adjacent to some of the better neighborhoods and first-ring suburbs. Almost everyone who works there drives at least twenty minutes home. If just one third of them lived within a mile of the hospital, it would create one huge contiguous desirable area equivalent to the best of the suburbs, with 17,000 fewer auto trips.

But naw.

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But there's yet another wrinkle--some of us, like me, work in multiple workplaces.

I teach in a college with multiple campus sites. If I lived near my office ... let's just say that I can't even afford an apartment near there. Another campus at which I teach is 40 miles away. The second is also 40 miles away. The last campus in 120 miles away, but, thankfully, I only teach there one or two sessions out of eight.

The compromise? A semi-dangerous neighborhood seven miles from the office, and 32 miles from either of the other two campuses. The last campus is impossible anyway :)

I wish it were a different situation ... but it isn't. I wish public transportation went to these places, but it doesn't. (One campus is in a county that has persistently refused public transportation on the grounds that it will attract Scary Poor (and presumably Scary Ethnic) People.) Even if it did ... class gets out at 9:45 at night, and the bus / train / bus commute to one campus lasts over two and a half hours and involves stops in some TRULY dangerous places. No, thank you. The college does not run shuttlebuses. And teaching positions ... let's just say that full-time academic work is not something that one can just change at will. Changing jobs would entail a cross country move (and probably the same situation) to stay in the field, or a complete career change. I am good at what I do and I enjoy it and my colleagues and students ...

So yes--it's a good ideal. I try to work at home as often as I can, and combine shopping with after work (and shops are often not crowded that late, or they are closed, which cuts down on spending :) :) ) But alas, walking to work isn't an option.

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Guest

Sorry if someone already mentioned this reason, but I just got a job and desperately wanted to move right next door to where I work, but alas, it's in a pretty high-cost neighborhood (you'd never know it by looking at it, but location location, blah blah), so have had to settle for a few miles away. At least I can take the bus.